Tuesday Reads

Garden at Sainte Adresse, Claude Monet

Good Morning!!

I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but the whole Kavanaugh thing has really triggered my PSTD. I haven’t been able to sleep much at night, I wake up early, and then I fall asleep in the afternoon. I feel disgusted and depressed by the entire ugly episode. It was bad enough that Republicans were determined to confirm a political operative whose main goal in life seems to be to curtail the rights of women and hand corporations the power to rip off and poison Americans, but now we may get a reprise of the Anita Hill hearings.

I’m glad that Christine Blasey Ford has come forward with her story of being nearly raped by Trump’s SCOTUS pick, but at the same time I wish the whole horrible thing would just go away.

Actually, I’m convinced that there won’t be a hearing next Monday. I think Kavanaugh will be forced to withdraw. It seems that Trump isn’t really all that enthused about him, and he can always nominate another evil right wing nut. In fact, he could solve the whole sexual abuse/assault issue by appointing a conservative woman, Amy Coney Barrett. She probably didn’t try to rape anyone when she was in high school, and she would likely vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Here’s the latest tick tock from the WaPo White house reporters: With Trump muted, White House leans on Kavanaugh to defend himself.

White House aides said they persuaded the president to refrain from tweeting a defense of Kavanaugh in the accusation’s immediate aftermath and deliberately worked to keep him from meeting personally with the nominee, even though the two men spent most of the day in proximity.

Don McGahn watches Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate testimony

Kavanaugh was hunkered down in the West Wing office of White House Counsel Donald McGahn, strategizing to save his nomination and calling senators to deny the claim against him….

One senior White House official said Trump thinks Kavanaugh can survive and told top advisers he thought the judge’s denial of wrongdoing was forceful. “The president’s thinking is, don’t get out there and defend him if he’s not defending himself,” this official said. “But he liked that he defended himself.”

But two Trump confidants Monday also underscored the president’s history of self-interested calculations amid political tumult. “He’s going to do what’s best for Trump,” said one of them, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “The president thinks it’s rough for Kavanaugh, and he’d decry the process as disgusting if he withdraws, but he’d nominate a carbon copy of Kavanaugh in a second if he goes down.”

Another reason why Kavanaugh might be thrown overboard, again from the WaPo: Republicans fear reversals in November due to accusation against Supreme Court nominee.

Republicans are bracing for political aftershocks from the sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, with some expressing fear that the coming investigation will refocus the nation’s attention on an issue that could drive up the Democratic vote in the midterm elections.

The initial hope that the conservative Kavanaugh’s appointment would encourage turnout by grateful GOP voters this fall has been tempered by new fears that more voters, especially independent women, might head to the polls with fresh anger about Republican handling of sexual impropriety after a new round of public hearings.

Anita Hill testifying in 1991

“It’s not just about Kavanaugh but more about the midterms,” Rick Hohlt, a Republican lobbyist and veteran strategist, said of the party’s concerns. “With more women running for public office than ever before and the majority of them being Democrats, we could have a 1992 situation.”

That’s a reference to the elections in 1992, dubbed the “Year of the Woman” after the number of women elected to the House nearly doubled, to 47, and the number of women elected to the Senate tripled, to six. The election came one year after Justice Clarence Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court despite allegations that he had sexually harassed a subordinate, Anita Hill, in the workplace.

Even before the accusation against Kavanaugh surfaced, polls showed women preferred Democrats more than men did and were more likely to disapprove of President Trump, who faced accusations of sexual misconduct by 19 women before his 2016 election. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in late August found 58 percent of female registered voters intended to cast a ballot for a Democrat for Congress, compared with 45 percent of men.

Remember Mitch McConnell never wanted Trump to appoint Kavanaugh. It’s a long time until next Monday’s scheduled hearing. A lot can happen in that time. My guess is the Republicans will cut Kavanaugh loose. Certainly, if another woman comes forward, he will be dead in the water.

Meanwhile, FEMA’s threatened presidential emergency alert system rollout has been postponed because of all the protests. NBC News:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the wireless emergency alert (WEA) system, announced that the test that had been scheduled for Thursday will be pushed back to Oct. 3, citing the “ongoing response efforts to Hurricane Florence.”

Postponed, thank goodness!

The initial announcement was met with concerns from social media users who stated that a direct message from President Donald Trump to the nation could be used for political purposes, similar to how he uses his official Twitter page.

Many also went on to raise the issue of the alert being mandatory, with no way to opt of it. One user even messaged Verizon Wireless, one of the 100 wireless service companies that have agreed to provide the alert to their network, asking how she can avoid receiving it.

Some users even threatened to cancel their cellphone service, while others said they would protest the test by turning their phones off, creating the hashtag #GoDark920 in response to the original test date.

Stephen Cobb, a security researcher at ESET, a technology security company, tweeted via his verified account that the blowback against the test indicated the broader frustration with the president.

“This POTUS is so bad that folks are prepared to forgo the potential benefits of a national alert system – which already exists on radio and TV – because it is hard to believe Trump will not abuse it.”

As long as we’re talking about the sexual predator in the White House, I might as well include this creepy info from The Guardian on Stormy Daniels’s tell-all book:

Trump’s bodyguard invites Daniels to dinner, which turns out to be an invitation to Trump’s penthouse, she writes, in a description of alleged events that Daniels has disclosed previously but which in the book are rendered with new and lurid detail. She describes Trump’s penis as “smaller than average” but “not freakishly small.”

“He knows he has an unusual penis,” Daniels writes. “It has a huge mushroom head. Like a toadstool…

“I lay there, annoyed that I was getting fucked by a guy with Yeti pubes and a dick like the mushroom character in Mario Kart…

“It may have been the least impressive sex I’d ever had, but clearly, he didn’t share that opinion.”

Ugh. Still, I’d love to be a fly on the wall when someone reads this to Trump.

Finally, if you haven’t already done so, you should read Hillary Clinton’s new essay at The Atlantic: American Democracy Is in Crisis.

It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown.

They were not.

Hillary Clinton photographed by Annie Leibovitz

In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders. Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm. And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.”

Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis.

I don’t use the word crisis lightly. There are no tanks in the streets. The administration’s malevolence may be constrained on some fronts—for now—by its incompetence. But our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back. There’s not a moment to lose.

Read the rest at the Atlantic link.

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Thursday Reads: Hurricane Florence and Other News

Hurricane, Bahamas, by Winslow Homer

Good Morning!!

Hurricane Florence coverage is dominating the news as the storm approaches the Carolinas. Will the storm live up to the hype? For the sake of the people in it’s path, I hope it continues to weaken.

The Weather Channel: Hurricane Florence Long Siege is Beginning; Storm Surge, Catastrophic Flash Flooding, High Winds to Hammer the Carolinas, Appalachia.

Hurricane Florence is making its final approach to the Carolinas, with landfall possible either overnight tonight or Friday, kicking off an agonizing crawl through the Southeast into early next week, producing catastrophic inland rainfall flooding, life-threatening storm surge and destructive winds.

As of Thursday morning, Florence’s eye was located about 160 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, moving northwestward.

Outer rainbands are already pushing ashore in eastern North Carolina, only the beginning of what could be a record wet siege from a tropical cyclone in parts of the Tar Heel State….

On the Eye of the Hurricane, by Danittza Zimic

The National Hurricane Center noted Wednesday evening that while Florence has weakened some, “the wind field of the hurricane continues to grow in size. This evolution will produce storm surges similar to that of a more intense, but smaller, hurricane, and thus the storm surge values seen in the previous advisory are still valid.” [….]

“This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast,” the National Weather Service in Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote in its Tuesday evening area forecast discussion. A Wednesday morning forecast discussion said flooding in southeast North Carolina and northeast South Carolina could be “unprecedented.”

USA Today: Hurricane Florence nears coast: ‘This is a life-threatening situation.’

The storm was about 145 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, and 195 miles off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Thursday as of 8 a.m. EST. But with tropical force winds extending almost 200 miles from the center, Florence was a poised to bring havoc well before making landfall.

That could happen sometime Friday, probably somewhere near the states’ border. FEMA administrator Brock Long urged people in mandatory evacuation areas to get out. And he warned that the storm cleanup will take time and patience….

Hurricane Katrina, by Carol Warner

More than 1 million people were evacuated from coastal areas, and 10 million live within areas of hurricane or tropical storm warnings and watches. Storm surge of up to 13 feet will be “life threatening” and rainfall of up to 40 inches will mean “catastrophic” flooding, he National Hurricane Center said.

“We want to continue to send the message that this monster of a storm is not one to ride out,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said.

Some folks still plan stay put, according to the article.

Meanwhile, we learned a couple of days ago that the Trump regime stole money from FEMA to pay for it’s child separation policy and immigrant concentration camps. But it turns out the situation is even worse than we thought.

CNN reports: It’s not just FEMA: ICE quietly got an extra $200 million.

The Trump administration this summer quietly redirected $200 million from all over the Department of Homeland Security to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, despite repeated congressional warnings of ICE’s “lack of fiscal discipline” and “unsustainable” spending.

Menemsha Hurricane, by Thomas Hart Benton

The Department of Homeland Security asked for the money, according to a document made public this week by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley. Of the $200 million, the document says $93 million will go to immigrant detention, a 3% budget increase that will fund capacity for an additional 2,300 detainees; and $107 million for “transportation and removal,” or deportations, a 29% budget increase.

The additional $200 million would put ICE’s budget for detention and transportation at more than $3.6 billion.

The money came from different parts of DHS, including FEMA, the Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office, Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers, Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, cybersecurity office and Customs and Border Protection.

Read the rest at CNN.

The residents of the states in the Florence’s path should be very nervous. This morning Trump again attacked Puerto Rico on Twitter. CNN: Trump falsely claims nearly 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico ‘did not die.’

Nearly 3,000 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. President Donald Trump denied this reality as a hurricane barrels toward the Carolinas.

“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000,” he said in a tweet Thursday morning as Carolinians prepared to be pummeled by Hurricane Florence.

Hurricane Irene, by Eileen Dorsey

Earlier this month, the island’s governor formally raised the death toll from Hurricane Maria to an estimated 2,975 from 64 following a study conducted by researchers at The George Washington University. CNN’s own reporting reflects similar numbers. The university study accounted for Puerto Ricans who succumbed to the stifling heat and other aftereffects of the storm and had not been previously counted in official figures. Much of the US territory was without power for weeks.

Trump has consistently denied any fault for his administration in the aftermath of the storm. In fact, the President has instead sought praise for his handling of Hurricane Maria, saying earlier this week that it was “an incredible, unsung success.” [….]

“I think Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” Trump said Tuesday in the Oval Office, noting that the island location is “tough” during a hurricane due to the inability to transport vital equipment and supplies by truck. “It was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”

Whether or not FEMA is prepared and has the necessary funds, Trump will claim he did a fabulous job.

The Senate Intelligence Committee met this morning, and they decided to postpone the vote on Brett Kavanaugh until next Thursday, Sept. 20 at 1:45PM after Democrats successfully pushed for the
delay
. CBS News:

Under the committee rules, any member can ask for a one-week delay on the vote of a nominee. After numerous Democrats deployed a strategy of holding up hearing business, citing lack of access to documents pertaining to Kavanaugh’s record, the minority pushed for another delay in the confirmation process.

Maurice Sapiro: Orient Point, After The Hurricane

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, began the committee’s business by motioning to adjourn “to make sure we have the time and information we need, the documents, the facts, the witnesses in order to proceed on the Kavanaugh nomination.”

“This nomination is going to be tainted, it will be stained by process…broken the traditions of this committee.” He added the nomination was rushed through to judgement in a “highly partisan and unfortunately failed way.”

Blumenthal argued that there’s an “even more urgent and pressing duty to get those documents and having witnesses to enable us to evaluate serious concerns raised as a result of evasive and seemingly misleading answers given to us at the hearing.”

Read more at the link. At least they bought time for more public opposition to Kavanaugh. Susan Collins of Maine has been subjected to sustained pressure, and she hasn’t handled it well at all.

Slate: Susan Collins Complains of “Bribery” After Nonbillionaires Try to Influence Her Kavanaugh Vote.

On Monday, Sen. Susan Collins accused political opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh of attempted “bribery.” The charge itself is without any legal merit whatsoever. That complaints about the campaign finance effort came from Collins, Republican election lawyer Cleta Mitchell, and an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell make the episode almost too rich to be believed. Their cries of bribery, illegality, and lack of principle lay bare the bankrupt campaign finance system that Mitchell and McConnell helped create and that Collins has contributed to with previous Supreme Court votes and will supersize with her likely vote to confirm Kavanaugh.

The Hurricane, by Michael Rucker

Collins labeled as a “bribe” a fundraising plan by two progressive Maine groups, aided by the company Crowdpac, to raise funds for Collins’ eventual opponent in 2020. People are pledging to give money via Crowdpac to that unknown future opponent, but donors will only be charged for the donation if Collins votes “yes” on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. As of Tuesday night, the groups reported pledged donations of more than $1 million, with a $1.3 million goal. There were more than 39,000 individual pledges ranging from $1 to the maximum allowable donation to a candidate of $2,700.

Now we can argue about whether the political threat to Collins funded by tens of thousands of small donations should be illegal. But claims by Mitchell and others that the fundraising effort is illegal are wrong, in part thanks to the deregulated campaign finance system that Mitchell and others have helped to create through litigation and a sympathetic Supreme Court.

Read more at Slate.

For the past couple of days we’ve been hearing that Paul Manafort is negotiating for a plea deal to avoid having to go through a second trial. But it looks like he is still counting on a pardon from Trump once he’s finished with the legal process.

Today Politico reports that Trump and his legal team aren’t the least bit concerned.

At any time, Trump could wipe out Manafort’s earlier convictions and eliminate the need for the D.C. trial or a plea deal by pardoning Manafort. The president has sounded open to the idea, expressing deep sympathy for his former campaign chief….

The Storm, by Jim Booth

Several aides and advisers have told POLITICO they believe Trump will grant clemency to Manafort, but Giuliani has said the president has agreed to put off any consideration of the issue until the Mueller probe concludes.

Asked Wednesday whether a plea deal would close the door on Manafort getting a Trump pardon, Giuliani replied, “No, it doesn’t. I can’t speak for his exercising discretion on a pardon. But I don’t see why it would foreclose it, no.”

Isn’t dangling a pardon obstruction and/or witness tampering? Giuiliani also revealed that Trump’s and Manafort’s attorneys are still in a joint defense agreement, so Trump is privy to everything Manafort is doing and vice versa.

Giuliani also confirmed that Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s have been in regular contact and that they are part of a joint defense agreement that allows confidential information sharing.

“All during the investigation we have an open communication with them,” he said. “Defense lawyers talk to each other all the time where as long as our clients authorize it therefore we have a better idea of what’s going to happen. That’s very common.”

Giuliani confirmed he spoke with Manafort’s lead defense lawyer Kevin Downing shortly before and after the verdicts were returned in the Virginia trial, but the former mayor wouldn’t say what he discusses with the Manafort team. “It’d all be attorney-client privilege not just from our point of view but from theirs,” he said.

It appears the fix is in. For all we know the attorneys already could have worked out how they will handle the pardon. Of courses that still would not get Manafort off the hook for state charges or for being forced by Mueller to testify before the grand jury. But Giuliani says they won’t act on a pardon until the investigation is over, so I guess until it happens, Manafort could still take the fifth and refuse to answer questions. I hope Mueller refuses any plea that doesn’t include cooperation from Manafort.

So . . . what else is happening? Let us know your thoughts in the comment thread below.


Tuesday Reads: 9/11 Anniversary, Hurricane Florence, and Political Storm Woodward

Good Morning!!

Today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

There’s a memorial ceremony going on in New York City, but Trump is in Shanksville, Pennsylvania for a Flight 93 event. I suppose he figured he wouldn’t be welcome in New York and he might get more votes out Pennsylvania. Anyway, this is a photo of his embarrassing behavior on arrival there.

This buffoon is not capable of acting appropriately in any situation. Remember when we had a dignified president?

Trump started the day with a series of tweets about his obsession with the Russia investigation and his campaign to destroy his own Department of Justice. NBC News:

President Donald Trump began the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by tweeting about the FBI, claims of possible collusion between his presidential campaign and Russia, and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

The tweets, apparently rehashing reports on Fox Business Network and Fox News, came as the president was traveling to a scheduled appearance at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania — the site where one of the planes hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001, crashed into a field.

First, right after 7:00 a.m., Trump, appearing to quote from a Fox Business Network segment, tweeted, “‘We have found nothing to show collusion between President Trump & Russia, absolutely zero, but every day we get more documentation showing collusion between the FBI & DOJ, the Hillary campaign, foreign spies & Russians, incredible.’ @SaraCarterDC @LouDobbs.”

Lou Dobbs is a Fox Business anchor, while Sara Carter is a Fox News contributor. She posted an article Monday night alleging that officials from the FBI and Justice Department leaked information to the media.

Peter Strzok (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

The “leak strategy” That the moron in chief and other idiots complained about was an effort by Peter Strzok to stop leaks from the FBI.

“The term ‘media leak strategy’ in Mr. Strzok’s text refers to a Department-wide initiative to detect and stop leaks to the media. The President and his enablers are once again peddling unfounded conspiracy theories to mislead the American people,” Goelman said.

Read the tweets and more at the link. This is the “president.” he spends most of his time sitting around watching TV and tweeting ignorant nonsense and the rest ranting at his staff or at paid audiences at his Hitler-style rallies.

USA Today on the 9/11 ceremonies:

Seventeen years out from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the nation comes together Tuesday to mourn and remember a day that changed history.

The country watched in horror as hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The attack killed 2,996 people, making it the deadliest foreign attack ever on U.S. soil.

Ceremonies begin in New York City on the 9/11 Memorial plaza at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. Family members of victims of the 2001 and 1993 attacks, and they have been invited to participate in this year’s reading of the names.

President Donald Trump will pay tribute to the victims at a ceremony in western Pennsylvania. First lady Melania Trump will accompany her husband to the event.

The Shanksville ceremony will include the sounds of the Tower of Voices, a 93-foot-tall concrete and steel structure featuring a wind chime for each person on board with its own distinctive sound. The tower is the final phase of the 2,200-acre Flight 93 National Memorial.

The site is live streaming both events.

In other news, a powerful category 4 hurricane is bearing down on the mid-Atlantic coast and and another is bearing down on the Trump White House in the form of Bob Woodward’s book, which was released today.

From the ABC News 11 (Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, NC area): Hurricane Florence remains dangerous Cat 4 storm as it heads toward the Carolinas.

Hurricane Florence continues to be a dangerous Category 4 storm as it steams toward the U.S. East Coast, but a new wrinkle in the Gulf could affect its path.

It’s too early to know for sure, but a disturbance in the Gulf could form into Tropical Storm Joyce and potentially push Florence’s track northward — good news for many parts of North Carolina.

That’s just a possibility at this point, according to Chief Meteorologist Chris Hohmann.

So the situation is still fluid.

The Washington Post: Hurricane Florence: Watches posted as “extremely dangerous” storm churns toward Carolinas.

Large and violent Florence is continuing on a beeline toward the East Coast as an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 hurricane. Catastrophic flooding and destructive winds are becoming very likely in the eastern Carolinas.

Forecasts generally project the storm to make landfall between northern South Carolina and North Carolina’s Outer Banks as a strong Category 3  on Thursday, although shifts in the track are possible and storm impacts will expand great distances beyond where landfall occurs.

The National Hurricane Center is warning of an “extremely dangerous” triple threat in the Carolinas and Virginia:

1) A “life-threatening storm surge” at the coast — a rise in ocean water over normally dry land.

2) “Life-threatening freshwater flooding from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event” from the coast to interior sections.

3) “Damaging hurricane-force winds” at the coast and some distance inland.

Like Hurricane Harvey, which stalled over Texas in 2017, Florence could linger over the Southeast for several days after landfall unloading 15 to 20 inches of rain and isolated amounts to 30 inches. The Hurricane Center said this “could produce catastrophic flash flooding.” […..]

More than 1.5 million people have already been ordered to evacuate coastal areas ahead of the storm, due to both destructive winds and storm surge which could place normally dry land under at least 10 feet of water.

Read more at the WaPo.

On the Woodward book, I highly recommend this review at Slate by Isaac Chotiner: Nobody’s Heroes: Bob Woodward’s new book presents Trump staffers as our last line of defense. We’re doomed.

Nearly 300 pages into Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, a West Wing aide named Zach Fuentes cautions fellow staffers. With depressingly familiar words, Fuentes informs his colleagues, “He’s not a detail guy. Never put more than one page in front of him. Even if he’ll glance at it, he’s not going to read the whole thing. Make sure you underline or put in bold the main points … you’ll have 30 seconds to talk to him. If you haven’t grabbed his attention, he won’t focus.” Some subjects, such as the military, do engage him, but the overwhelming picture is worrying and dire. Still, one could finish this passage and feel at least slightly relieved that people like Fuentes are aware of the reigning deficiencies in the White House, and doing their best to mitigate them.

Fuentes is merely an assistant to John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, but Kelly and James Mattis, the secretary of defense, are presented throughout Woodward’s book as being cognizant of the president’s extreme limitations and authoritarian instincts, and rather boldly willing to push back against their boss. This is why it’s probably worth mentioning that Fuentes wasn’t talking about Donald Trump; no, he was talking about John Kelly. And Woodward’s book—which arrived at around the same time as the already infamous, still-currently anonymous New York Times op-ed about the men and women in the executive branch supposedly working to protect America from Donald Trump—is as much a portrait of the craven, ineffective, and counterproductive group of “adults” surrounding Trump as it is a more predictable look into the president’s shortcomings. It’s not entirely clear how aware Woodward is of what he has revealed about the people he’s quoting at length. (Sources tend to come off well in his books.) But intentionally or not, Fear will make plain to the last optimist that, just as Republicans in Congress are unlikely to save us, neither are the relative grown-ups in the Trump administration.

(Emphasis added.) It’s a frightening but important read.

One more on Trump’s reactions to the book from Politico’s Annie Karni:  Trump’s assault on Woodward riddled with contradictions.

President Donald Trump has called journalist Bob Woodward’s book on his administration a work of “fiction” and a “scam,” claiming that quotes in the book are “made up” and that the author is a “liar.”

At the same time, sources familiar with his thinking said he is livid at his former economic adviser, Gary Cohn, and his former staff secretary, Rob Porter, for “leaking” to Woodward.

It’s difficult to rationally argue that the book could be both: fiction dreamed up by Woodward, and a betrayal by former top stewards of the administration, who shared with the famed journalist alarming details about how the White House functions.

But it’s not hard for Trump, who often spouts two opposing views intended for different audiences. And his supporters often soak up the contradictory claims just as readily as he spits them out, taking it all in stride.

More Trump insanity at the link.I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Constitutional Crisis in Crazytown

Good Morning!!

It’s difficult to know where to begin. Trump is isolated, melting down, we are certainly in a Constitutional crisis. Here’s a summary of the current situation from Politico: Trump, Alone.

LINE OF THE MORNING … THE WASHINGTON POST’S PHIL RUCKER, ASHLEY PARKER and JOSH DAWSEY said the combination of the Woodward book and the Times op-ed “landed like a thunder clap, portraying Trump as a danger to the country that elected him and feeding the president’s paranoia about whom around him he can trust. … According to one Trump friend, he fretted after Wednesday’s op-ed that he could trust only his children.” WaPo

IN SOME WAYS, this is a version of the same story we’ve been living for the past three years. The Washington establishment appalled, and Trump unmoved. This will, of course, heighten Trump’s distaste for the media, and fuel the media-and-swamp-out-to-get-me narrative.

THINK OF IT LIKE THIS: Trump’s own administration is criticizing him behind the cloak of anonymity. Whereas TRUMP HAS NO ARTIFICE. He just says what he thinks publicly. JUST THIS WEEK HE …

— SAID he might shut down the government if he doesn’t get what he wants on immigration policy. This came after SPEAKER PAUL RYAN sheepishly said Trump knew better than that.

— LASHED OUT AT ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS for allowing the indictment of two Trump supporters in Congress.

— INTIMATED he wouldn’t be terribly critical of Nike because it paid him big rent for its Midtown Manhattan store.

JUST LOOK HOW HE RESPONDED ON TWITTER — @realDonaldTrump at 6:11 p.m.: “TREASON?”

… at 7:40 p.m.: “Does the so-called ‘Senior Administration Official’ really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source? If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

… at 11:22 p.m.: “I’m draining the Swamp, and the Swamp is trying to fight back. Don’t worry, we will win!”

WHAT’S THIS MEAN FOR THE FUTURE? How is it sustainable for the president to operate in an environment in which he trusts nobody? We’re about to find out.

Right now Democrats are staging a rebellion in the Senate Judiciary Committee over the unprecedented way that Republicans are trying to ram through Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh while keeping secret hundreds of thousands of documents about the nominee’s past history.

Cory Booker threatened to release a document having to do with racial profiling, and he challenged Republicans to bring charges against him if he has broken a committee rule. Most other Democrats are supporting him.

Several Democrats have spoken about the process by which an outside private attorney, Bill Burck, who used to work for the nominee and currently works for George W. Bush has been permitted to decide which documents will be made public. Burck is also the criminal attorney for Don McGahn, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon in the Russia investigation!

Vox: Who is Bill Burck? Meet the former Bush attorney vetting Kavanaugh documents.

Bill Burck, a private attorney employed by former president George W. Bush and a longtime Republican, is a key linchpin in the process for reviewing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s lengthy paper trail. In fact, he’s running the show — and Democrats see his involvement as yet another sign of how far norms have shifted in the way the Republican majority has conducted Kavanaugh’s confirmation process.

Bill Burck

Burck’s name may sound familiar because he’s a deeply entrenched player in Republican legal circles. Not only is he reportedly a longtime friend of Kavanaugh’s, he’s also more recently represented at least three current or former Trump White House officials — Don McGahn, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon — regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. He’s currently a co-managing partner at the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

Burck’s representation of McGahn has particularly raised eyebrows, since McGahn is the main Trump White House official in charge of getting Kavanaugh confirmed. It’s also prompted questions given the potential role that Kavanaugh himself could have in ruling on elements of the Mueller investigation, if he advances to the high court.

What’s more, Burck and Kavanaugh were once colleagues in the Bush White House. He was a former special counsel and deputy counsel to President George W. Bush, while Kavanaugh served as White House counsel and staff secretary for the same administration. Certain Democrats argue that his ties across all these venues make him “triply conflicted,” per the Washington Post.

Democrats have also questioned why Burck — a private attorney as well as a very politically charged figure — has now been authorized to analyze and filter through all of Kavanaugh’s former White House records, documents that could include damning evidence about the nominee’s involvement in decisions on wiretapping, torture, and the detention of enemy combatants.

Read the rest at Vox.

Democrats on the Judiciary committee claimed last night that they have evidence that Kavanaugh lied in a previous confirmation hearing. In addition, they are suggesting that Kavanaugh discussed the Mueller investigation with someone in the a law firm that represents Donald Trump, Kasowitz Benson Torres. Kamala Harris questioned Kavanaugh about this last night and he was visibly rattled.

Vox: Kamala Harris’s mysterious Kasowitz question during the Kavanaugh hearings, explained.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) on Wednesday had the entire hearing room on tenterhooks, as she opened her questioning of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh with a somewhat mysterious inquiry. Her question centered on a meeting Kavanaugh may have had about the Mueller investigation — with a member of a law firm founded by President Trump’s personal lawyer.

A meeting like this could underscore an inappropriately cozy relationship between Kavanaugh and the Trump administration, adding yet another potential conflict of interest to those that Democrats have been hammering throughout the hearing. And it’s one that a Democratic aide told Vox they believe might have taken place. (Democrats have argued that Kavanaugh’s nomination by Trump already poses a conflict of interest since he could potentially rule on elements of the Russia investigation.)

Kavanaugh, meanwhile, didn’t do much to settle the issue as he repeatedly deflected questions on the subject.

“Have you discussed the Mueller investigation with anyone at Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm founded by Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal lawyer?” Harris asked. “Be sure about your answer, sir.”

“I’m not remembering but if you have something, you want to …” Kavanaugh said, adding, “I’m not sure if I know everyone who works at that law firm … I’m not remembering.”

Harris continued this line of questioning for roughly five minutes, a move that not only seemed to make Kavanaugh uncomfortable but also elicited some broader confusion in the hearing room since she declined to provide immediate specifics about a person or meeting. “I think you’re thinking of someone and don’t want to tell us,” she said.

Democrats said last night that they believe a meeting did take place and they are working to get more information about it.

It looks to be another big news day today and tomorrow the Mueller grand jury meets. ABC News: Two Roger Stone associates to appear before Mueller grand jury Friday.

Two past associates of President Donald Trump ally and veteran political operative Roger Stone are expected to appear before a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. on Friday in response to subpoenas from special counsel Robert Mueller, ABC News has learned.

Jerome Corsi, who until recently served as D.C. bureau chief for InfoWars, the alt-right program hosted by right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, and political humorist and radio show host Randy Credico are the two latest Stone associates to be summoned to testify in Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Read more at the link.

There is so much to read today that I’m going to list some stories of possible interest, links only.

Historian Sean Wilentz at The New York Times: Why Was Kavanaugh Obsessed With Vince Foster?

The Washington Post: ‘The sleeper cells have awoken’: Trump and aides shaken by ‘resistance’ op-ed.

The New York Times: Trump Lashes Out After Reports of ‘Quiet Resistance’ by Staff.

LA Times: Now Trump is targeting Vietnamese refugees.

The Washington Post: Trump administration to circumvent court limits on detention of child migrants.The Washington Post: McCain’s former chief of staff says he’s considering Senate bid as a Democrat.

There has been a shooting in Cincinnati, so cable new switched over to covering that. I’m going to keep watching the Kavanaugh hearing on C-Span. What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearings and Woodward’s New Book

Good Morning!!

I had difficulties with my internet connection this morning, so I watched the beginning of the Kavanaugh hearing. The Democrats raised quite a ruckus over the Republicans–and Trump’s–refusal to make documents available from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House. Democrats moved to adjourn the hearing until the documents could be reviewed. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley refused to hold a vote on the motion.

The committee has now begun opening statements by Senators. Awhile ago, Grassley said the committee would adjourn after the opening statements and resume tomorrow. The opening statements are limited to 10 minutes each.

Raw Story: Kavanaugh hearing spirals into chaos as Democrats refuse to let GOP chair read opening statement.

The confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, began in chaos as several Democratic senators interrupted the opening remarks.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) tried to welcome Kavanaugh and was immediately interrupted by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

“Good morning. I welcome everyone to this confirmation hearing on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve as associate justice,” Grassley said.

“Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman? Mr. Chairman? I would like to be recognized for a question before we proceed,” Harris said.

“Mr. Chairman I would like to be recognized for a question before we proceed. Mr. Chairman. I would like to be recognized to ask a question before we proceed. The committee received [requested documents] just last night, less than 15 hours ago,” Harris said. “We believe this hearing should be postponed.”

Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ) gave a long speech appealing to Grassley to stop the hearing.

“You are taking advantage of my decency and integrity,” Grassley said.

There was much more after that. I have to at least give the Democrats credit for speaking up.

More from NBC News: Fireworks as Kavanaugh confirmation hearings get underway.

Sen Kamala Harris (D-CA)

The Senate confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh launched with chaotic scenes Tuesday morning as Democrats pushed to adjourn, and protesters repeatedly interrupted the proceedings.

The Senate confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh launched with chaotic scenes Tuesday morning as Democrats pushed to adjourn, and protesters repeatedly interrupted the proceedings.

The complaints from Democrats on the panel and protester fireworks that lasted through the hearing’s first hour followed the late-night release of tens of thousands of documents related to Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House.

“The committee received just last night, less than 15 hours ago, 42,000 pages of documents that we have not had an opportunity to read, review or analyze,” Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said moments after the hearing opened. “We cannot possibly move forward with this hearing.”

Sen. Amy Kobuchar (D-MN)

Sen. Amy Klobluchar, D-Minn., chimed in, agreeing with Harris and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., then added, “Mr. Chairman, if we cannot be recognized, I move to adjourn…we had been denied real access to the real documents we need” and also said that Republicans have turned the hearing into a “mockery.”

Other Democrats began to add to the chorus of concerns, interrupting Grassley. “What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?” asked Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

“This process will be tainted and stained forever” if the proceedings were not delayed, said Blumenthal. Grassley eventually denied Blumenthal’s repeated request for a roll call vote to adjourn the hearing.

As the Democratic pushback stretched into the hearing’s second hour, Grassley expressed mounting frustration. “Do you want to go on all afternoon?” he asked the panel’s Democrats.

Much more with background at the link.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)

Chris Geidner at Buzzfeed reports on the withholding of documents on Kavanaugh’s time in the White House: The Justice Department Was Behind The Decision To Keep 100,000 Pages Of Kavanaugh’s Record Secret.

After two days of questions about how it was decided that more than 100,000 pages of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s White House work would be withheld from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s review, the Justice Department took responsibility for the decision on Monday night.

“The Department of Justice, which has advised both Democratic and Republican administrations on the application of the Presidential Records Act and constitutional privileges, was responsible for determining which documents were produced to the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said….

The news that the documents were being kept from the public and the committee was reported on Friday night, when the lawyer overseeing the review sent a letter to congressional leaders about the final status of his review. The development was just the latest step in a series of fights over the millions of documents from Kavanaugh’s time working in George W. Bush’s White House from 2001 until when he was confirmed to his seat on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

The office of former president Bush has been producing some of those documents to the committee in advance of the hearing — a decision that went outside of the usual process for congressional requests under the Presidential Records Act, which is handled by the National Archives.

Instead, lawyers for Bush, led by William Burck of Quinn Emanuel, reviewed the documents requested and then provided the presidential records they found to the Justice Department for review.

“[T]he White House and the Department of Justice have identified certain documents of the type traditionally protected by constitutional privilege,” Burck wrote. “The White House, after consultation with the Department of Justice, has directed that we not provide these documents for this reason.”

I don’t know what the basis is for a claim of “constitutional privilege” or “executive privilege” or why a lawyer who is not connected to the government would be able to make such a claim. Maybe someone else can enlighten me. Senator Dick Durbin said he’d never heard of it.

The mysterious and powerful William Burck of Quinn Emanuel.

The Bush lawyers released 42,000 pages of documents last night, too late for Senators to realistically review the material. Chuck Grassley ludicrously claimed that committee staff for the Republican had reviewed every page of the documents by this morning.

So we’ll see what happens. We know the Republicans are probably going to cram this nomination through, despite what the public wants. The biggest issue is that Kavanaugh would likely vote to overturn Roe V. Wade. According to Aída Chávez at The Intercept: There is No Grassroots Energy Rallying for Brett Kavanaugh. None.

LAST SUNDAY, SEVERAL hundred protestors rallied in Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado, against President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh. Local reporters were on hand, and the protest earned a two-minute segment on that night’s local CBS broadcast. The “Unite for Justice” rally in Denver was just one of dozens held across the country that same day, and viewers of that evening’s news learned that the rally-goers were taking a stand against confirming a justice who would be the fifth vote to repeal Roe v. Wade.

The network’s attempt at balance, however, was foiled by advocates of Kavanaugh — or, more precisely, the lack of them. The anchor, at the end of the segment, deadpanned to the Denver metro viewership and said, “A pro-life rally was scheduled to run in opposition to the protest, but no one attended.”

Abortion opponents’ inability to gather even a handful of counter protesters in Denver made for an awkward aside, but it also underscored the near total absence of organic grassroots energy from a supposedly rabid anti-choice movement. As the Senate began confirmation hearings Tuesday, the politics of the nomination are being shaped by a myth that has been constructed over decades by a small minority of fervent abortion rights opponents: that the country is evenly divided when it comes to abortion.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)

In reality, the politics are lopsided. Voters want Roe protected by more than a 2-1 margin, and even oppose overturning it in states like North Dakota, where Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is up for re-election. The opposition that does exist, meanwhile, is concentrated among a minority of hardcore Republicans who consider it a moral travesty to vote for Democrats — not the kind of voter Heitkamp could win over by supporting Kavanaugh.

All of this has been evident for years, yet the sophisticated political antenna of Democratic leaders in Washington suddenly fail them when it comes to reading polls on the question of abortion. Instead, Democratic leadership is worried about the political consequences for Democrats in red states who vote no. If all Democrats vote no, Republicans would need to win Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, Republicans from Maine and Alaska, respectively, who publicly support abortion rights.

Click on the link to read the rest.

In other news, people are already talking about Bob Woodward’s book on the Trump White House, which is scheduled for release next Tuesday. The Washington Post: Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency.

John Dowd was convinced that President Trump would commit perjury if he talked to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. So, on Jan. 27, the president’s then-personal attorney staged a practice session to try to make his point.

In the White House residence, Dowd peppered Trump with questions about the Russia investigation, provoking stumbles, contradictions and lies until the president eventually lost his cool.

Bob Woodward

“This thing’s a goddamn hoax,” Trump erupted at the start of a 30-minute rant that finished with him saying, “I don’t really want to testify.”

The dramatic and previously untold scene is recounted in “Fear,” a forthcoming book by Bob Woodward that paints a harrowing portrait of the Trump presidency, based on in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals.

Woodward depicts Trump’s anger and paranoia about the Russia inquiry as unrelenting, at times paralyzing the West Wing for entire days. Learning of the appointment of Mueller in May 2017, Trump groused, “Everybody’s trying to get me”— part of a venting period that shellshocked aides compared to Richard Nixon’s final days as president.

A bit more:

A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d’etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.

At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all.

“We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.

After Trump left the meeting, Woodward reconts, “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’”

I’d say that’s being generous. a sixth grader would surely be able to understand that explanation. Read more at the WaPo.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Watching Trump Sink Into Psychosis

Good Morning!!

Something big must be coming from either Mueller’s investigation or the Southern District of New York, because Trump is truly losing it. Hard to believe, but his tweets are getting crazier than ever and serious people are questioning his sanity.

This morning,  Trump actually claimed that NBC doctored the video of his Lester Holt interview. Vice News:

Donald Trump is now claiming that his infamous May 2017 TV interview, seen by millions, in which he freely admits to firing former FBI Director James Comey because of the Russia probe is somehow fake.

Among a series of unglued tweets, Trump accused NBC anchor Lester Holt of “fudging” the tape that is reportedly being looked at by special counsel Robert Mueller as evidence of obstruction of justice.

Trump’s bizarre claim 16 months after the fact came amid a rant about fake news in which he again labeled reporters the “enemy of the people.” [….]

This is the first time Trump has questioned the veracity of the recording in the 476 days since the interview was first broadcast.

During the interview Trump said of Comey’s firing: “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’”

Trump’s attacks on the press are bearing fruit. CNBC: Man who echoed Trump attacks on the media is charged with threatening to kill Boston Globe employees over pro-press editorial.

A man was charged on Thursday with threatening to kill employees of the Boston Globe following the paper’s decision to coordinate a national response to President Donald Trump‘s attacks on the media, according to a release issued by the Justice Department.

In more than a dozen threatening phone calls to the newspaper, Robert Chain, 68, threatened to kill Globe employees and referred to the publication as “the enemy of the people,” according to the release. The threats started Aug. 10, the day the Globe announced that it would be coordinating editorials from papers around the country to “protect free press from Trump attacks.”

More than 300 publications published editorials on Aug. 16 as part of the project, according to a tally from the Globe. That day, Chain allegedly threatened to shoot Globe employees in the head, “later today, at 4 o’clock.”

Chain, of Encino, Calif., was arrested Thursday and eventually will be transferred to Boston. He is expected to appear in federal court in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon.

Here’s what Trump tweeted to his millions of cult followers this morning.

Earlier Thursday, Trump wrote in a post on Twitter that he could not “state strongly enough how totally dishonest much of the Media is.”

He signed off the tweet: “Enemy of the People!”

And Here are Chain’s words:

Last night The Washington Post published this piece about how much trouble Trump could be in and how unready he is to deal with it: ‘Winter is coming’: Allies fear Trump isn’t prepared for gathering legal storm.

President Trump’s advisers and allies are increasingly worried that he has neither the staff nor the strategy to protect himself from a possible Democratic takeover of the House, which would empower the opposition party to shower the administration with subpoenas or even pursue impeachment charges.

Don McGahn

Within Trump’s orbit, there is consensus that his current legal team is not equipped to effectively navigate an onslaught of congressional demands, and there has been broad discussion about bringing on new lawyers experienced in white-collar defense and political scandals.

The president and some of his advisers have discussed possibly adding veteran defense attorney Abbe Lowell, who currently represents Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, to Trump’s personal legal team if an impeachment battle or other fights with Congress emerge after the midterm elections, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Trump advisers also are discussing recruiting experienced legal firepower to the Office of White House Counsel, which is facing departures and has dwindled in size at a critical juncture. The office has about 25 lawyers now, down from roughly 35 earlier in the presidency, according to a White House official with direct knowledge.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Yesterday Trump fired White House Counsel Don McGahn via Twitter, and this morning he’s tweeting responses to the news coverage.

Sure, dipshit. And now he’s admitting publicly that it was his decision to dump McGahn. Yesterday, he claimed McGahn was leaving voluntarily.

Vanity Fair: Don McGahn’s Exit Signals An Explosive New Phase In The Russia Probe.

Exact timing aside, McGahn’s exit comes at a critical moment for Trump and the Republican Party. A blue wave could hand Democrats control of the House beginning in 2019, allowing them to initiate congressional investigations, issue subpoenas for information related to the president and his businesses, and begin impeachment proceedings. At the same time, McGahn’s departure is likely to set in motion a series of changes that will fundamentally alter Trump’s relationships with his White House legal team, the special counsel’s office, and his personal attorneys. Last summer, when the president asked McGahn to fire the special counsel, he reportedly threatened to resign. (McGahn’s likely successor, Clinton-impeachment alum Emmet Flood, is expected to be less cooperative with document requests. According to the Times, Flood recently contested a special counsel request to interview Chief of Staff John Kelly, citing the president’s executive privilege.)

Emmet Flood. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM.

The shake-up of the White House general counsel’s office may also precipitate more significant changes to Trump’s relationship with the Justice Department. A key point of tension between Trump and McGahn has been Jeff Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation last year, which McGahn reportedly failed to prevent and which Trump views as the “original sin” that set in motion the series of events leading to Mueller’s appointment. In recent weeks, Trump has revived his public attacks on his long-suffering attorney general, and has spoken with his personal lawyers about firing him, according to The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, what was once a largely unified wall of G.O.P. support for Sessions has begun to crack. While Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other high-ranking lawmakers continue to stand by Sessions, others have seemingly resigned themselves to the inevitability of his firing. “Trump doesn’t like him,” Senator and Trump confidant Lindsey Graham told reporters Tuesday. “This relationship has soured, and I’m not blaming Jeff. It can’t go on like this.” Others have begun signaling that if Trump is to fire Sessions, it should at least wait until after the midterm elections, effectively endorsing an expiration date for the attorney general. “They’d do it before, but they’re worried about the effect it would have on the midterms themselves,” Senator Bob Corker told the Post. “It’s about the investigation, and I think the Mueller investigation ought to go on unimpeded.”

The combination of a new White House counsel and a new attorney general in charge of the Russia probe could pour gasoline on the already-fiery dynamic between president and special counsel. Ousting either man could look like further evidence of corrupt intent on the part of Trump, should Democrats ultimately pursue impeachment. More important, it could presage an aggressive new legal strategy by the president and his lawyers as Mueller’s investigation grinds toward a conclusion. Given that the midterms are just around the corner, avid watchers of the probe expect any new indictments to be issued by September 7—the 60-day mark before the elections—in order to avoid the appearance of partisanship.

That’s next Friday, and remember the Grand Jury on Fridays.

You have to read this piece at CNN by Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner: Mike Pence went to college and found God.

People who met Mike Pence at Hanover College say something happened there to change him. In the fall of 1977, when he arrived, Hanover was the kind of liberal arts school where young minds were gently opened by professors and classmates. Pence moved in the opposite direction there, becoming more rigid and doctrinaire as he studied for a history degree.

Eventually his faith led him to reject some friends and even regard his fiancée, Karen, as a sinner whom he would have to forgive in order to marry. These habits of mind, later revealed in his hostility to equality for gay people and even climate science, were formed when he was barely an adult.

Vespers was organized around songs and testimonies of faith. It offered community to students who were adjusting to the emotional challenge of leaving home. It also gave the guitar-playing Pence the opportunity to preach with the zeal of a new convert to right-wing Christianity. His schoolmate Linda Koon recalls a charismatic fellow who turned cruel when she failed to meet his definition of true faith.

“He was rigid, condescending and exclusionary,” Koon said in an interview. “You had to fit into his little pocket of Christianity, and I didn’t fit.”
Koon’s problem was that she couldn’t recount a dramatic come-to-Jesus tale of Christian conversion. “He acted like he had been struck by lightning,” she said. “I had just grown up in the Lutheran Church and had always been a Christian. That wasn’t good enough. He told me that wasn’t good enough, ‘God doesn’t want your kind.’

Head over to CNN to read the rest.

So . . . what stories have you been following?


Tuesday Reads: The Pariah “President”

Trump refuses to answer repeated questions about the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

Good Afternoon!!

I know no one here will find this statement surprising, but Trump has no clue what being “president” is all about. The traditional job of president is not to alienate our country’s closest allies, gin up racism and hatred, inflame partisan divisions, attack freedom of speech and press, and disrespect anyone who refuses to genuflect before him. Presidents are supposed to try to unite the country, heal divisions, and show leadership in difficult times. Not this so-called “president.”

Ashley Parker at The Washington Post: President non grata: Trump often unwelcome and unwilling to perform basic rituals of the office.

Shunned at two funerals and one (royal) wedding so far, President Trump may be well on his way to becoming president non grata.

The latest snub comes in the form of the upcoming funeral for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), which, before his death, the late senator made clear he did not want the sitting president to attend. That the feeling is mutual — Trump nixed issuing a statement that praised McCain as a “hero” — only underscores the myriad ways Trump has rejected the norms of his office and, increasingly, has been rejected in turn.

Less than two years into his first term, Trump has often come to occupy the role of pariah — both unwelcome and unwilling to perform the basic rituals and ceremonies of the presidency, from public displays of mourning to cultural ceremonies.

In addition to being pointedly not invited to McCain’s funeral and memorial service later this week — where former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush will both eulogize the Arizona Republican — Trump was quietly asked to stay away from former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral earlier this year. He also opted to skip the annual Kennedy Center Honors last year amid a political backlash from some of the honorees and has faced repeated public rebuffs from athletes invited to the White House after winning championships.

“We’re not talking about a president going and having a rally in a state that voted against him,” said Tim Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University who previously served as the director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. “We’re talking about a president who can’t even go and participate in a ritual where presidents are usually welcomed, and that is one of the consequences of his having defined the presidency in a sectarian way.”

Noah Bierman at The LA Times: Two funerals and a wedding: The shunning of Donald Trump.

Sen. John McCain’s decision to exclude President Trump from his funeral is an extraordinary moment on its own, a posthumous rebuke from an American icon who regarded the presidency as sacred, and believed its current occupant defiles that office.

Yet Trump’s exclusion from such high-profile events of mourning and celebration — where American presidents are typically counted on to stand in for an entire nation — is emerging as a pattern over his 19 months in office.

In April, Trump was asked to stay away from the funeral of Barbara Bush, wife to one president and mother of another, leaving it to former Presidents Clinton and Obama to serve as national consolers to the Bush family. In December, he opted to skip the president’s traditional attendance at the annual Kennedy Center Honors gala after several of the artists being feted threatened a boycott.

The British royal family dispensed with inviting foreign dignitaries to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding in May partly to avoid having to invite Trump, whom Markle had attacked as “divisive” and “misogynistic.” Trump canceled the usual White House celebration for the NFL’s Super Bowl champions when he learned most of the Philadelphia Eagles players were unwilling to attend. Only months earlier the Golden State Warriors had passed on their own invitation to celebrate their 2017 NBA championship title at the White House.

Bierman notes that Trump rants about his rejections by “elites,” but at the same time he’s wounded by them.

The baby-man “president”

Trump’s pique “is genuine. None of it is a put-on,” said Michael Caputo, a former political advisor. “He has the same deep and abiding disdain for the elites that each and every one of the ‘deplorables’ have today.”

The resentment was a constant throughout his career in business and entertainment, where he was dismissed as more of a boastful, tabloid-seeking showman than the serious mogul he believed himself to be.

“I am sure that he is aggravated that the political establishment still will not accept him,” said one longtime friend who asked not to be identified given the sensitivity of the subject. “What he really doesn’t understand is that their objection is cultural as well as political and that they will never accept him.”

But critics say Trump created the isolation by his occasionally outrageous behavior, by reveling in a politics that feeds conspiracy theories, humiliates rivals and disdains basic notions of civility.

“He lacks any kind of humility. He kind of takes pride in kicking people around. So when people then strike back, he shouldn’t be disappointed, because in many ways he’s asked for it,” said Leon E. Panetta, who served in Congress and in the Clinton and Obama cabinets.

Just look at his childish reaction to the death of John McCain.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Trump reversed course and ordered that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff for the rest of the week to mark the death of John McCain, after drawing fire from lawmakers and veterans groups who said the Republican senator hadn’t been appropriately honored….

White House battled with Trump over whether to keep the flag lowered until McCain’s burial.

The White House initially lowered its flag to half-staff on Saturday but returned it to full-staff by Monday morning. It was lowered to half-staff again Monday afternoon, shortly before Mr. Trump released his statement. The president’s proclamation covers the White House as well as all federal buildings, military bases and embassies.

White House officials said they prodded Mr. Trump for two days to put out a kind word about Mr. McCain. Mr. Trump resisted, and viewed the news coverage of the former senator’s death as over-the-top and more befitting a president, according to people familiar with the situation. They said cable networks’ focus on the flag controversy came at the expense of more coverage of Mr. Trump’s trade deal with Mexico.

Trump is wrong, of course. The flag has been kept at half-staff until the interment of other prominent Americans, most recently for Senator Ted Kennedy and former First Lady Barbara Bush.

One of the reasons Trump despised John McCain was because of his vote against repealing the ACA, but why is he given all the credit for the bill’s defeat? If it hadn’t been for two Republican women, Susan Collins and Lisa Merkowski, McCain’s no vote would have been meaningless. That’s one of the simple truths about the lionizing of McCain that Holly Baxter points out at The Independent: Why can’t anyone be honest about John McCain’s legacy?

It is difficult to encapsulate a political legacy without sliding into enraged hyperbole or saccharine fawning. With John McCain, it is even harder.

That’s because we’re not in Kansas anymore, politically speaking: in the surreal presidential landscape we’ve found ourselves in, it seems almost quaint to refer to McCain as a dinosaur or a right-wing reactionary, or to say that his cruel streak could sometimes be shocking. After all, he called his wife a “c***” on the campaign trail only once (reportedly reacting to being gently teased about his thinning hair); he only joked about the teenage Chelsea Clinton being the “ugly” love child of Hillary Clinton and Janet Reno. It’s not like he said he could grab any woman “by the pussy” because he was famous; it’s not like he dismissed Mexicans as “rapists”. So what’s the problem?

Republican presidential candidate John McCain waits to be introduced at a campaign rally at the Crown Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina on October 28, 2008. AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

The very fact that a sitting US president made such shocking remarks, however, shouldn’t blind us to the fact that McCain had some very serious flaws. His Chelsea/Hillary Clinton barb continues a long tradition of dismissing women in politics because of their perceived bad looks. (Remember the “plain facts and plain faces” propaganda against women’s votes during the Suffragette movement, and the depictions of them as ugly harridans who wanted to participate in democracy because they couldn’t get husbands?) Needless to say, the memory of McCain’s mean jibe very probably underpins the reason Chelsea Clinton recently defended Barron Trump against media nastiness, tweeting pointedly that he should be “allowed to have the private childhood he deserves”.

Words are just words, but McCain’s voting record where women’s rights are concerned speaks for itself. He voted to restrict abortion and, in 2015, to defund Planned Parenthood if it carried on providing abortions to women with unwanted pregnancies. We know that votes like these can lead to serious consequences: deaths from backstreet abortions, increased levels of poverty, the perpetuation of cycles of social and economic inequality. McCain also voted against the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act in 2014: the bill was an effort to ensure women could access contraception and gynaecological services without being denied healthcare benefits by their providers because of those providers’ “beliefs”. Nor was he prejudiced against women only when it concerned contraception or abortion: he also voted against a bill that would have made it illegal to discriminate against female employees with the same experience being paid less their male counterparts doing exactly the same job.

Read the rest at The Independent.

More articles to check out, links only:

Literary Hub: Rebecca Solnit: Why the President Must Be Impeached.

NYT: Bruce Ohr Fought Russian Organized Crime. Now He’s a Target of Trump.

NYT: Kushner Companies and Michael Cohen Accused of Falsifying Building Permits to Push Out Tenants.

Natasha Bertrand at The Atlantic: Devin Nunes’s Curious Trip to London.

Vice News: This toddler got sick in ICE detention. Six weeks later she was dead.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?